Monday evening, my husband and I attended a presentation by the leadership of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which we have supported for a long time. SPLC was formed in the 1970s to defend victims of racial bias. It now identifies hate groups nationwide and takes aggressive legal action to deter them. It also provides excellent resources to law enforcement and educators for teaching tolerance. Bless them.
There are nearly 900 hate groups active in this country. The statistics on hate crimes are ballooning; you and I are part of a society that, actively and passively, allows mistreatment of “the other.” I needed to hear from those on SPLC’s front lines as part of a frank Lenten look in the mirror, accounting for myself and my community. I expected to be discouraged on both counts.
Yes, I was shocked and saddened. Yes, I could see where I am part of the problem. But rather than being discouraged, I was inspired. In the face of daunting challenges, people are raised up to do amazing things. On an icy evening, 1,500 mostly gray-haired people in Lisner Auditorium were stirred to remain in the fray alongside passionate advocates for the least and lost. We heard from an inner-city teacher determined to shatter stereotypical outcomes for her students and from one of those students whose life had been turned around. There were stories about heroic stands against economic and racial injustice. We heard about attorneys who are being trained for pro bono work, week-long shifts in remote ICE detention centers so that unrepresented and vulnerable people can receive due process.
It seems that the greater the burden of sin, the greater the stirrings of God-in-us. At least that is my hope.
Hateful acts happen. The forces of darkness, of evil, exist. But God’s people can offer some earthly redemption. It is awesome and humbling to see what the Holy Spirit emboldens us to do. I want to – intend to – be among the bold. In Lent, we take a hard look at “what we have done, and what we have left undone.” At the same time, let’s embrace the example of those who bring us nearer to the peace of God that passes all understanding.
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:6 (NKJV)
Offered in thanks for SPLC’s Morris Dees and Richard Cohen.